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7,000-8,000 US-bound migrants clash with police in Guatemala as Biden prepares immigration policy

Guatemala Migrants
Posted at 9:19 AM, Jan 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 11:22:54-05

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- An estimated 7,000 to 8,000 Honduran migrants clashed with Guatemalan officials as they arrived at the border between the two countries.

The caravan of migrants is heading to the United States, but they will first have to attempt to cross through Guatemala and then Mexico, which has a migration agreement with the U.S.

As migrants reached the southern border of Guatemala, they were greeted with road blocks, sticks and tear gas, according to multiple reports. Guatemala's immigration authority says it sent nearly 1,000 migrants back to Honduras after the violent clashes Monday. Officials said another roughly 20 migrants tested positive for COVID-19 and are being quarantined.

"They really kind of clamped down on the southern border, started aggressively interdicting migrants on the route, detaining them, and deporting them," explains Dr. Ev Meade, a professor at the Kroc School of Peace Studies at the University of San Diego.

In response to the violence, Honduras's president urged Guatemala to investigate the situation and the treatment of the migrants, saying migrating is a human right.

The migrants say their reasons for joining the caravan include a hunger and homelessness crisis in Honduras, that was made worse in 2020 by the coronavirus pandemic and two category four hurricanes that hit the Central American country in November.

Mexico's government has deployed its National Guard troops to its southern border with Guatemala to stop the group from entering.

Dr. Meade explains that another caravan is not surprising, but just days away from the Biden administration, he's optimistic the tone around immigration could be different. However, he says the change won't be overnight.

"Anybody that thinks we're just going back to normal and we're never going to hear about caravans and never hear about migration again is fooling themselves- these things are the results of policy failures that have 20 years, 25 years of history behind them," says Dr. Meade.

Biden has said he will release details of his administration's immigration policies on Wednesday after being sworn in. Information shared so far describes a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, including DACA participants. Biden's plan also includes border technology and funding for Central American countries, according to CNN.

However, Biden and his team have said it will take time to roll back Trump administration policies, and it will not be immediate.

This story originally reported by Laura Acevedo on 10News.com.